|Given New Life | Posted November 04, 2013
Few figures in rock and roll history could claim such a polarizing reputation as Creed frontman Scott Stapp. His career began in the mid-90s with the explosive success of Creed's debut My Own Prison, the first of three albums by the band that would shape and define much of the post-grunge movement. Stapp's signature dramatic, bluesy vocals were loved by some and criticized by others, but undeniably consistently influential in his genre. Creed's career was cut short in 2004, coinciding with Scott Stapp's own personal downward spiral. The band, and Stapp's life, was left in shambles.
But that wreckage served to birth a deep renewal in Stapp's faith and personal life, which eventually led to his successful solo debut The Great Divide in 2005 and Creed's reunion for album Full Circle in 2009. The former reckless rocker has become a devoted husband, father, and Christ-follower, intent on turning even his mistakes towards redemption.
This intensely personal story serves as a backdrop for November 2013 release Proof of Life, an 11-track album which treads the most spiritually rich ground of Stapp's prolific songwriting career. "I really feel like (the album) proves that the last 10 years mattered and that all of the struggle mattered and I didn't waste all that time," Stapp said in a recent interview with ArtistDirect. "It's a story and a journey and an education and proof that there was life in that period."
The project kicks off with lead single "Slow Suicide," immediately lyrically addressing those who might be skeptical of the new direction: "I'm not evil, no matter what you think of me / I'm just human, there's a part of you that's just like me." Musically, this track showcases Scott Stapp's deep-running grunge roots with its heavily distorted guitars and rough vocals.
"Who I Am" is a song wrestling with identity that is just reminiscent enough of classic Creed to satisfy longtime fans without using the musical heritage as a crutch. Most notably, the production is much cleaner, which can be attributed to the masterful mixing of Chris Lord-Alge and direction of iconic rock producer Howard Benson. Title track "Proof of Life" is an instant album highlight, featuring some of the strongest songwriting and deepest earnesty. The song's autobiographical undertones serve to buoy it up through themes of taking responsibility for your mistakes and finding purpose in even a broken life.
Propelled by a surprisingly smooth melody, "New Day Coming" is a poignant declaration of a redemptive new beginning. The song's chorus captures the concept of new beginnings that underscores much of the album's thematic flow: "I'll get back up, cause my whole life I was lost and now I'm found." "Only One" is another more laid back cut, also serving as one of the most accessible selections with its upbeat sound and smooth pacing.
"Break Out" employs the rock genre's staple fight song format, but turns it more towards inspiration than aggression. This is a song that could easily be picked up by a sports team. "Hit Me More" builds itself with just a bit of a Southern twang well-suited to Stapp's vocal style. The track is a narrative embracing the breaking point moments of our lives, framed by hook-heavy melodies and instantly singable lyrics.
In what is perhaps the hardest moment on the album to pull off, "Jesus Was a Rockstar" likens Jesus's life to the career of a rockstar. This track will most likely prove hard for some to swallow, but taken with the right amount of levity, the song is an enjoyable jam with surprisingly strong validity in the comparisons drawn.
"What Would Love Do" is a song from the heart of conflicts, asking the simple question "what would love do?" both of the singer and the other person involved in the situation. This displays a mellowed, trembling side to Stapp's powerhouse voice, adding an appropriate balance to other tracks on the album. "Crash" reminisces on the dangers of climbing too high through success. Featuring both a rich acoustic guitar bed in the intro and the strongest guitar solo on the album, this song will also likely be musically satisfying fare for Creed fans.
Grunge-style ballad "Dying to Live" wraps the album with some of the strongest musical arranging and songwriting, declaring earnestly and fittingly "What I thought was all of my life's story, turns out it was only just one page / It's a new beginning, I've got so much left to say."
This is a rare album that manages to stay true to the artist's musical resume while innovating for new listeners, tempering classic distortion-heavy grunge with slick hooks and matured songwriting. Scott Stapp clearly knows his craft inside and out, and he's investing that knowledge in some deeply encouraging songs of personal redemption and purpose. Crafted by one of the best teams in the rock music industry, this album is undeniably musically tight and masterfully written.
Although Stapp's tumultuous history may provide a challenge for many listeners in granting this album credibility, particularly in the Christian market, the humility and honesty voiced in every track make this well worth your time and consideration. These songs give voice to those who have been broken, the grace-hungry seeking to know that even their mistakes can find meaning—and that is a voice that sorely needs to be heard.
Song to Download Now:
"Slow Suicide" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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